Tag Archives: Candy Gigi

Martin Besserman brings Alternative Variety to the London comedy circuit

It’s Camden Cabaret and the man behind it…

Martin Besserman, host of the long-established London comedy club Monkey Business is starting another night on Friday this week at his regular venue – the Pembroke Castle in Primrose Hill/Chalk Farm… It is not altogether comedy, though there will be some.

So we had a chat about it in his car, because it was raining. Well, you would, wouldn’t you? It was bloody wet.


JOHN: So, your new Camden Cabaret night. It involves burlesque. Will you be getting your kit off?

MARTIN: (LAUGHS) The most I’m likely to do is show a nipple. Those days of me showing a bit of my body – which I used to do at Speaker’s Corner – are long gone.

JOHN: You’re a long-time comedy venue runner. So why are you starting it? Bottom fallen out of comedy?

MARTIN: Well, all businesses are challenging. I was once a market trader. Before that, I was in a band and this is part of my journey in life. I’ve always been attracted to providing entertainment.

JOHN: So from band to street market to comedy to stripping.

MARTIN: I think stripping is an exaggeration. These days, stripping completely naked is rare. The emphasis is more on the creative aspect. I have gone through something like 150 different clips to identify the more creative and funny burlesque performers.

JOHN: How you suffer for your art…

MARTIN: (LAUGHS) But the shows are not just burlesque. It’s a real variety show.

“I was in a band” – Martin was performing in the mid-1980s…

JOHN: You know I have this obsession that, when Alternative Comedy first started in the mid-1980s, you would see a magician, a juggler, a comedian, all sorts of bizarre acts on the bill. Now you go to a comedy club and it’s six 24-year-old white blokes talking about wanking and how they watch porn.

MARTIN: And variety was on the bill before the 1980s as well. Bruce Forsyth and Ken Dodd and all those people. Our shows will have burlesque and drag artists and comedians and magicians. The character of the night will be one of unpredictability.

JOHN: Ironically, a lot of those old-school comics learnt their trade dying terrible on-stage deaths to apathetic audiences in between strippers at The Windmill.

MARTIN: Well, the new type of burlesque has really taken off in a big way. It is huge. Once there was an awareness that I was going to host this kind of night, a lot of performers – more than I had ever envisaged – were sending me their clips and wanting to get on the night. Perhaps in recognition that Monkey Business has been hugely successful over many, many years.

JOHN: Will you be having comics like (I NAMED A SPECIFIC COMIC) on the Camden Cabaret bill?

MARTIN: Well, we are living in a completely different political environment and it’s a dilemma for me to allow people to be a little bit rebellious on stage without offending customers who you want to return.

JOHN: So the punters won’t be offended by tits and bums, but they might be offended by (THE SPECIFIC COMIC I NAMED).

MARTIN: And you know why also? Because the burlesque performers are primarily feminists.

JOHN: Really?

Martin starts to prepare for the big night on Friday

MARTIN: Well, you gotta understand there would certainly be feminists opposed to the idea of women taking their clothes off and potentially turning men on. But – again – I have to say this is not about women taking their clothes off. This is about Art and we have some really, really creative performers. There’s a marvellous hula-hoop girl. Not all of the burlesque performers take their clothes off. 

On the night that Stephen Bailey is hosting – because I’m taking a back seat on some of these – he has an act on called Soul Illusion, a wonderful magic dance act.

What I’m trying to bring to this night is unpredictability. And it’s all about costumes as well. I’m trying to create a combination of old fashioned AND new entertainment. By doing that, we will hopefully cater for all.

It’s a cabaret night that happens to have a bit of burlesque in it. And comedy. And drag. But not always drag and not necessarily always burlesque.

It will cater for the straight AND the gay community. I should point out that The Black Cap in Camden closed about five years ago. It was a gay pub before homosexuality was even legal. (Homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK in 1967) It did temporarily relocate to another venue in Camden, but it was very very short-lived.

I am not saying that Camden Cabaret will be a replacement for The Black Cap, but I hope Camden Cabaret will cater for that community as well.

JOHN: A bit like the late lamented Madame Jojo’s in Soho, then…?

MARTIN: Yes.

JOHN: And Camden Cabaret is not replacing Monkey Business but is running in tandem…

“I’m trying to create a combination of old fashioned AND new entertainment…”

MARTIN: Yes. Monkey Business is at the Pembroke Castle on Thursdays and Saturdays… and Camden Cabaret is on Fridays.

JOHN: You have President Obonjo appearing on your second Camden Cabaret show – presumably not stripping – and the wonderful Malcolm Hardee Award winning Candy Gigi compering your third and fourth nights.

MARTIN: Yes. For what I want to achieve with this kind of night – unpredictability – she will be fantastic. I want it to be a crazy kinda night.

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Filed under Burlesque, Cabaret, Comedy, Drag, Gay, London

Thieves at BBC Studios nominated for a Malcolm Hardee Award in Edinburgh

President Obonjo – the original by ten years

As mentioned in my blog last week, BBC Studios have outrageously sold a stolen concept to Channel 4/E4 either by blatant amoral plagiarism or because of a breathtaking lack of interest in or knowledge of the current and recent UK comedy scene – a non-broadcast pilot that has clearly been based on the theft of the intellectual property of comedian Benjamin Bankole Bello – his comedy character President Obonjo.

In what could be read as a two-finger sign to BBC Studios, ‘President Obonjo’ has today made a clean sweep in nominations for the three annual Malcolm Hardee Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The President Obonjo character has been nominated for Comic Originality (on the basis that the BBC have flagrantly ripped-off the basic idea)… and for the Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid Award.

I am not so sure about the latter as BBC Studios’ actions potentially have the outcome of destroying Benjamin Bello’s so-far successful ten-year career… and the cynical BBC people involved must clearly know this – they are apparently amoral, not actually stupid.

Malcolm Hardee admired cunning stunts…

Ironically, E4 and BBC Studios have been nominated in the Cunning Stunt Award category “for exponentially increasing the knowledge of, and sales for, President Obonjo with their ‘appalling theft of his character’.”

In an apparent further two-finger gesture to BBC Studios and E4, President Obonjo will be compering the traditional two-hour Malcolm Hardee Awards Show in Edinburgh’s Counting House venue starting tomorrow at 2359 – that’s midnight.

As it is part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival, entry is free. Whether you will exit with your soul unsullied is a matter for conjecture. 

The Award nominations are:


COMIC ORIGINALITY

Legs

Sean Morley

Joz Norris

– President Obonjo

– Charles Quarterman

Jimmy Slim and Lewis Blomfield


CUNNING STUNT

– E4 & BBC Studios – for exponentially increasing the knowledge of, and sales for, President Obonjo with their “appalling theft of his character”.

– Jimmy Slim and Lewis Blomfield – for creating and distributing flyers which have scratch-card like elements on them.

– West End Producer – for releasing a poster featuring 5-star reviews appearing to be from well known critics and producers (M Billington, L Gardner, S Clapp, C Mack, Andy Webber). However, the names mentioned were actually members of the public he phoned up (eg Andy Webber is a man who lives in Bognor Regis), who gave permission for their names to be used.


ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID

– Catherine Cohen – for her force-of-nature take on millennials and their outwardly perfect, inwardly bleak lives.

– Tom Crosby – for creating a highly addictive video game and getting people hooked on it during the introduction to his show

– Sophie Duker – for being a self-aware, increasingly prominent voice of intersectionality as it changes Western culture

– Candy Gigi – for having a world class voice that could go global and showcasing it in a new musical genre

– President Obonjo – for, in future, either winning a legal battle over ownership of his character or becoming leader of the country


Malcolm Hardee’s children, Frank and Poppy Hardee, say: “One of our dad’s greatest qualities was finding and supporting new talent. This award in honour of our father will hopefully help to continue to promote new, exciting and slightly eccentric comedy acts at one of the world’s most famous comedy festivals.”

#JusticeForObonjo

 

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Candy Gigi – Ethel Merman meets Lionel Bart in a 5-Stars-of-David show

Candy Gigi in London last night with composer and musical accompanist Jordan Clarke

I almost never do reviews in this blog but – hey! – if it involves a bit of self-publicity too…

The late Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards had a halfway-decent hit rate, including spotting future US successes Trevor Noah, Bo Burnham and Reggie Watts.

In 2014, we gave the main award for Comic Originality to Candy Gigi.

Last night I saw a beyond-barnstorming London preview of her Edinburgh Fringe show this year: Friday Night Sinner.

It is an astounding abso-fucking-lutely gross-out musical about a frustrated young, wildly psychopathic Jewish girl’s life and marriage in Borehamwood.  

The poster bills it (and this rather understates the case) as:

and the blurb listing says: “This deluded, narcissistic, unsatisfied occasionally violent woman has delusions of grandeur and wants to become the biggest star in the universe – or at least in Borehamwood.”

Far too OTT to be staged by any mainstream West End Theatre, but with superbly tuneful songs by Jordan Clarke performed by Candy Gigi with belting all-stops-out passion, including Borehamwood!, Finishing What Hitler Started and the hopefully/possibly prophetic She Will Be a Star. 

This (certainly in the preview last night) is a 5-Stars-of David show.

There is a clever line in one of the songs about wanting to be “a Jewish Barbra Streisand“.

But it felt more to me like Ethel Merman Meets Lionel Bart in some unholy, foul-mouthed, foul-imaged, sweet-tuned union.

It will be a bloody miracle if Candy Gigi’s voice lasts out for the whole 3½ weeks of the Edinburgh Fringe.

I always thought she had immense potential though what on earth she could do with it I was never quite sure. Now I know. Candy Gigi should be on the West End and Broadway stage in a musical (with words and images that don’t make your aged aunt or Miss Marmelstein blush).

One warning:

As with all Candy Gigi shows, do not sit in the front rows unless you enjoy imminent physical peril.

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Mike Raffone on street performance, Dada and his cabaret club for misfits

Mike Raffone bills himself as an “Eccentric Entertainer”.

I saw his Brain Rinse show at the Edinburgh Fringe last year – it was billed as ‘Puppetry of The Audience’ – and I went to his monthly Cabaret Rinse club at the Elephant & Castle in London last month. It is wonderfully unpredictable. The next one is this coming Friday.

“Why,” I asked, “was your Fringe show called Brain Rinse and your London club is called Cabaret Rinse?”

“Because, hopefully it rinses your brain. Not a brainwash. Just a mild rinse.”

“How would you describe Cabaret Rinse?”

“A club for misfits. We did a similar thing about five years ago in Peckham for about six months – The Royal National Theatre of Fools. I just decided we needed a National Theatre for idiots, but it proved quite an expensive hobby.”

Cabaret Rinse is all variety acts,” I said. “Not stand-up comedy…”

The ringmaster of anarchic entertainment – Mike Raffone

“Well,” Mike responded, “what is stand-up? Cabaret Rinse is comedy definitely. Funny definitely. Out there for sure. Interesting I hope. Entertaining I hope.

“When we did Theatre of Fools, we did have a secret non-stand-up policy. We don’t have that with Cabaret Rinse. Last month we had Candy Gigi. You could say she’s a stand-up, but… she’s one in a million, really. There’s bits of stand-up but bits of brilliant clowning. I see that in all the people I like.”

“Candy Gigi is wonderful,” I said, “but I’m a bit wary of the way people use the word ‘clowning’ nowadays.”

“I hate the way the word is used,” said Mike.

“Why?”

“It’s the connotation. The art aesthetic. I think great clowning tends to be anarchistic. I would say The Greatest Show on Legs is great clowning. Or Ken Campbell’s Roadshow.”

“I agree with you,” I said, “that The Greatest Show on Legs ARE clowns, but I’m not quite sure why.”

“I think it’s well rehearsed,” said Mike, “but it looks like it’s thrown together.”

Greatest Show on Legs’ balloon dance in 2012

“Well,” I said, “with the Balloon Dance, the exact choreography is complicated and vital because it builds and it’s all about narrowly missing seeing the bits.”

“Ragged but in a great way,” agreed Mike. “It was by far the most hysterical thing that whole Fringe when I saw them in 2012.”

“Well,” I said, “they feel a bit like street performers but are not, though Martin Soan did start The Greatest Show on Legs as an adult Punch & Judy act. You, though, are basically a street performer at heart.”

“I dunno about ‘at heart’,” Mike replied. “I’m a performer at heart. But I’ve certainly done a lot of street performing. With Cabaret Rinse and Brain Rinse the idea is to take the energy and instantaneous edginess of street performing – of What the fuck is going to happen? – but NOT just do a street show indoors.

“Street theatre is so specific to where it is. There’s load of people there shopping and I’m gonna grab their attention. It’s the big trick. It’s grabbing the attention. If it’s a joke, it cannot be a subtle one. Everything’s big.  So I want to bring that kind of bigness and edginess and freshness into a – not an arty but a – theatrical setting.”

“You trained as an actor,” I said.

“…a misfit theatre course…”

“I remember, when I was a kid, around 16, ushering for my local theatre and seeing the Cardiff Lab and thinking This is weird. I don’t know what the fuck’s going on. This guy is scary but I love it. Wow! This is incredible! 

“Then I did a theatre degree at Leicester Polytechnic which was a bit of a misfit theatre course. It was run by this guy – a little bit of a maverick – who wanted to make his own theatre school – a bit like Jacques Lecoq – and he didn’t want it to be conventional. But he also realised the only way he could get funding at that time – in the mid-1980s – was to hide behind the auspices of an academic institution.

“His philosophy was that he was going to run the course but try and have as little as possible to do with the bureaucratic workings of the polytechnic. I got to see things like Footsbarn. It was a very practical, creative course and I think I got a taste there for theatre that was out of the ordinary.”

“So you got a taste for the bizarre.”

“Yes. I got into street theatre 30 years ago. I remember going down to Covent Garden and seeing street shows – it was all quite new then – and thinking: I don’t have the balls to do that. But, within a month, I was doing it. Covent Garden was quite interesting at that time in the late 1980s. It was sort of mixing with New Variety.”

Mike Raffone, street entertainer, performing at the Covent Garden Piazza in London

“So you thought you could not do it but then started doing it?”

“There was a guy who dragged me into it because he wanted to do it. He was like a dancer and acrobat. So we put this terrible show together, did it for about three shows and then he fucked off. But, by then, I had my street performer’s licence.

“We did go to Paris and see this man called Bananaman, who was this mad bloke who collected junk and then played music with it outside the Pompidou Centre. It was all in French. And then he hit this real banana and smashed it and everyone just thought he was mad. Apparently he was seen in Paris as the world’s worst street performer, but I thought: Wow! That’s alternative!”

Mike has learned to conduct himself well in performance

“What did he hit the banana with?”

“A stick. To me it was an act of Dada.

“I thought it was brilliant. So we went back to Covent Garden and decided we were going to create a police car out of rubbish. We got all this rubbish and two half-arsed costumes together and the idea was it would look terrible. Other street performers came up to us and said: Right, here’s a bit of advice – Get yourself some proper costumes because, frankly, it just looks like rubbish at the moment. And we said: No! That’s the POINT!

“The word anarchy,” I said, “might put some people off. But, if you say Dada, it sounds arty and acceptable and respectable. What does Dada mean?”

“Meaningless… I suppose I like it when you take it to the max, If you are truly going to be Dada, I suppose you have to be anti-everything. Anti-script. Anti-comedy. Anti-anti-comedy.”

His autobiography – Hitting The Cobbles

“Being a street performer, though,” I suggested, “is quite disciplined. You have to be half performer and half barrowboy/street market trader. You have to grab the punters’ attention at  the start and tout for money at the end, with a performance bunged in the middle. So, in theory, you could transfer the actual performance indoors if you remove the ‘selling’ element.”

“I would agree with that.”

“Except that the selling,” I said, “is an integral part of the street performance.”

“Well,” replied Mike, “they say you ‘sell’ a joke and I’m very aware of how I am going to set up any part of the performance. I am quite analytical about selling the material. I don’t know if it’s my inbuilt insecurity as a performer, but I so see myself as a writer. I think: This has got to work on paper or it won’t work in performance. That’s probably not the case, but it’s how I see it. I write everything down, even if it is just: We will be improvising at this point. It’s some weird fear.”

“So you are not a Dadaist really,” I said, “because you want everything written-down and organised in advance.”

“No, I don’t think I’m a Dadaist.”

“An absurdist?” I asked.

“I don’t know. To me, if it’s funny, it’s funny. I remember years ago I was called a post-modernist street performer. I didn’t quite know what it meant.”

“That’s it, then,” I said. We’re done. Where are you going now?”

“I’m going to a museum. It’s putting on a Dada cabaret… All I want is a bicycle hooked up to a whoopee cushion and, when people ride fast enough, it makes the whoopee cushion fart. That’s all I want.”

But what about his name – Mike Raffone?

Is it his stage name or his real name?

Say it out loud.

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Edinburgh Fringe Day 4: a ferociously funny comic & a Fringe legend returns

Becky Rimmer was celebrating her Bat Mitzvah

Today, I saw the ferociously funny – and I do mean ferocious – Candy Gigi Present Becky Rimmer’s Bat Mitzvah!

Then the incongruity of Pat Cahill expertly controlling a full room with a fishing rod and stories intermittently about being The Fisherman

Other highlights were The Incredible Joz Norris Locks Himself Inside His Own Show, Then Escapes, Against All The Odds!!

The Fringe Office tried to ban him from using two exclamation marks in that title, but he claimed the second one was artistically vital and they backed down. In this show, his surreal creativity continues to inch towards the more personal material which I think may eventually break him Big, as our American cousins might say…

Over ten years in casinos and dry vegetables

I rounded off the evening with a large audience and a small dog listening to impressive storyteller Matthew Harrison explain what his show title Fuck Me Like Dry Vegetable has to do with his ten-year career in the UK casino business.

In fact, the censorious Fringe Office has insisted his show be called F*ck Me Like Dry Vegetable. That’s really disguising the word, good ’n’ proper!

With over 3,500 shows and around 50,000 performers in town during the Fringe, flyering to get audiences is vital and, very often it ends up with performers flyering other performers.

I bumped into Italian comic Luca Cupani at Fringe Central this morning.

Luca Cupani with the surprising flyer today

“I was flyering in the street,” he told me, “and there was this beautiful girl. She gave me her flyer and I gave her mine. I asked her: When is your show? She said: From seven to one. Which I did not understand but, when she left, I looked at her flyer and it took me a while to understand it was not normal. I thought she must be a very clever comedian telling jokes half-naked to challenge sexism. You know those kind of things they do. But no. Then I realised the truth.”

Highlight of my day, though, was to receive an email from 2007 Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Doktor CocaColaMcDonalds. The last I heard of him, he had sold his canal boat in Nottingham or somewhere similar and disappeared off the face of the earth. His e-mail read:


The great Doktor CocaColaMcDonalds

I am still alive. Just.

I have a sister.

Foolishly, she has decided to become a stand up comedian.

It will end in tears.

She is like me. but better.

She is playing at Edinburgh Fringe.

She is called Jeanette Bird-Bradley.

Her show is Context, People! at the Bourbon Bar, 5th-13th August.

Thank you for the good memories. I still treasure my Malcolm Hardee Award.

I hope the last decade has treated you well.

Your humble servant

dokctor cocacolamcdoanlds


Kate Copstick’s chip price was an unPleasance surprise

I returned to the Edinburgh flat to find Copstick complaining. No surprise there.

She had had a small plate of chips at the Pleasance Courtyard at lunchtime which cost her almost 10p per chip. Par for the course in Edinburgh at Fringe time.

But not even that diminished the joy of hearing again from the great Doktor CocaColaMcDonalds…

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Edinburgh’s Fringe and Montreal’s Just For Laughs: the same but very different

Luca Cupani yesterday in Edinburgh

Luca Cupani was back in Edinburgh yesterday

Yesterday I chatted to Italian comedian Luca Cupani. He had just come back from representing the UK at Canada’s Just For Laughs festival in Montreal.

He – Italian comedian Luca Cupani – had been officially representing the UK along with Japanese comic Yuriko Kotani. Although he had not actually encountered Yuriko over there but had seen Danish comedian Sofie Hagen.

“Perhaps Danish comedian Sofie Hagen,” I suggested, “was representing the UK instead of Japanese comedian Yuriko Kotani.”

“That could be,” said Luca.

“How was Just For Laughs?” I asked.

“I feel like a nun who goes to an erotic fair who comes back to the nunnery with a bag full of dildoes and she doesn’t even know if they are dildoes. I realised only at the end how big it was.”

“Just For Laughs?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Luca.

“Just checking,” I said.

“I met this person,” continued Luca, “and these people and that person and they were approachable. I found out that the more important they are, the more easy they are to talk with because they are resolved: they are happy.”

“It was different from the Edinburgh Fringe?” I asked.

Luca’s current show at the Fringe

Luca’s current Confessions show at the Fringe

“Well,” said Luca, “the Fringe is all on the shoulders of the performers. You do your show and, among the punters, there might be some industry people. But the industry it is hidden; you don’t see them. In Montreal it is more visible – the industry. The companies, they promote the shows, they invite people and then the punters come. It is on the same level as Edinburgh but different.

“And they are Americans and Canadians, so the least experienced comedians there have maybe had sold-out tours across the USA. If you have a sold-out tour in the UK, you have maybe been to 10 or 12 cities. There, they have filled arenas across 40 or 50 cities. It gave me a sneak-peek into the real world and the fact there is a chance to make a living out of comedy.”

Luca’s current Fringe show is The Admin of Death and Other Confessions in the 40-seat BlundaBus.

Yesterday was a normal day for me in Edinburgh. It spat with rain occasionally and, in the streets, I bumped into perhaps 10-15 people I knew. Plus 3 people with whom I had longish conversations and whom I have clearly met in the past but I had no idea who they were. Not even after longish conversations. It is difficult to probe too deeply without asking outright: “Just who the hell exactly are you?”

I blame a combination of a lack of sleep and too much Red Bull.

Many Godden as Moses

Marny Godden, as Moses, met Japanese John

All I know clearly is that I saw Marny Godden’s multi-character-based show Where’s John’s Porridge Bowl? in which she starts dressed as Moses with beard, staff etc and riskily but successfully kept picking on three Japanese punters in the front row as audience participants despite the fact two had limited English. One of them went into such extended giggles at one point that Marny rightly just looked at her for around ten seconds. The main picked-upon Japanese was a triumph of unlikely audience-choice who joined-in enthusiastically while one of his chums videoed it on a smartphone.

Charlie Dinkin

Charlie Dinkin – with tales of headless snails and swastikas

Good punters also helped Charlie Dinkin’s show Can’t when one member of the audience volunteered that her mother enjoys killing snails by drowning them in beer then cutting their heads off. Charlie fought back with the real-life surreality of a night she spent with a member of the Bullingdon Club involving swastikas.

Who said 1960s-style events were dead?

Highlight of the day, though, was seeing Candy Gigi’s show If I Had a Rich Man.

Candy Gigi (with carrots) and a meaty comedy show

Candy Gigi with carrots and a meaty comedy show

Last week, I booked her to sing on the Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on the final Friday of the Fringe – on the basis that, from previous shows I had seen, I knew she could sing and it would be unexpected.

When I first saw her perform a few years ago doing 10-minute spots involving hysteria and desperate vegetable-eating, I thought she was wonderfully original.

Once seen, forever remembered. But I did wonder how on earth she could develop the act beyond 10 minutes.

She proved me wrong when she did a half hour Fringe show two years ago, still based heavily around hysteria and vegetables but which was held together by force of personality. For that, she won the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award for Comic Originality.

She is now back at the Fringe with an extraordinarily original full-length show which holds together and, indeed, has a climax. I can only describe it as a surprisingly dark and surreal autobiographical Jewish musical. Because, unknown in advance to me, this show turned out to be a part-belted-out-with-full-force comedy with blow-your-head-off songs. Whether her voice will last to the end of the Fringe, I don’t know.

Because of the singing and the occasionally quite dark mostly autobiographical narrative it is a different act, though vegetables do make a late and always-welcome appearance.

If I were a hack and desperate writer, I would say there is now comedy meat among her vegetables.

But I am, of course, not.

So I won’t.

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Edinburgh Fringe: some shows, a man dangling from a bridge and a romance

Passing performer Richard Gadd prepares to punch comic Joz Norris yesterday

Performer Richard Gadd (right) appeared to be preparing to punch comic Joz Norris in an Edinburgh street yesterday

My yesterday at the Edinburgh Fringe started with a Danish man playing the bagpipes and ended with a policeman.

There were stunts along the way, but none of them cunning stunts.

I saw seven shows yesterday. Five of them were:

Claus Reis: Return of the Danish Bagpipe Comedian
The show works, but there’s a presentation problem. If your USP is confounding expectations by being a Danish bagpiper and you dress up in a kilt and traditional Scots piper costume and you look fairly Scottish, then there is no real visual USP. Naff as it may sound, you should be wearing Viking horns or some equally stock cliché Danish costume while playing the pipes.

Candy Gigi: Award-winner with a new face this year

Candy Gigi: Award-winner with a new face this year

Candy Gigi: Chicken Soup
Last year’s Malcolm Hardee Award winner for comic originality. This year, she has developed the madness, adding in more glimpses of her acting and great singing voice and, yesterday, picked a perfect punter to unleash her insanity on. She handled him so well, I thought he might be a plant. He wasn’t. It was like watching a mescaline-crazed Cilla Black. Her shows tread a narrow line between sunshine and darkness.

Joz Norris: Hey Guys!
Always talented and charismatic, Joz’s new show now holds together as an entity. Tremendously enjoyable, with hints of a genuinely interesting autobiographical back story. If he has the nerve to increase the true stories while retaining the surrealism, he could break through massively. Perfect TV face.

Martha McBrier: Pigeon Puncher
It is easy to think she is ‘just’ a naturally very, very funny storyteller, but there is a lot of preparation and an enormous talent in audience control behind this show and her performance. Very very very funny indeed.

Bob Slayer conducting business on his BlundaBus

Bob Slayer conducting his BlundaBus show

Bob Slayer’s BlundaBus: Never Mind the BusStops
With anyone else, this unplanned rambling shambles of comic chattery in a double decker bus would be a car crash. With Bob (nominally) in charge, it still is – but that is the point of it. It’s a success! Not so much as a show but as an event.

Nathan (right, in red) with his de Lorean

Nathan (right, in red) with DeLorean before the wind came


In among all the above, I also went to the Three Sisters pub in the Cowgate, where Nathan Cassidy had managed to get hold of and park a DeLorean car to plug his Back To The Future trilogy of shows.

People could wear the hero’s red jacket and get photographed in the car and the bonnet was covered in flyers for Nathan’s shows: a good stunt undercut by the fact this is eternally-windy Edinburgh and occasional gusts blew the flyers off the bonnet into the street.

On second thoughts, though, perhaps that was not a negative factor. That was publicity. This is the Fringe.

John Robertson: The Dark Room in the underbelly

John Robertson: very Dark in The Underbelly

Walking away from that, I bumped into John Robertson in a rubber suit (no change there, then) plugging his Dark Room show… and then photographer Garry Platt, who has been wandering round photographing shows and events.

As Garry and I wandered off, I looked up. The Old Town of Edinburgh is built on two levels. Above out heads was the George IV Bridge from which a giant trapeze was dangling and a young gent was climbing down a rope towards it.

I said to a girl standing on the pavement: “He has eleven minutes to kill himself.”

“What?” she said, slightly surprised.

“I have to leave in ten minutes,” I explained, “so he only has eleven minutes to fall onto the road and plug whatever show it is by killing himself.”

It turned out she was doing the PR for the show.

The dangling Dolls duo above the Cowgate (Photograph  by Garry Platt)

Dolls duo dangling dangerously above the Cowgate yesterday (Photographs by Garry Platt)

The young man dangled and was followed by a young woman who dangled. They both dangled. By the time I left, a fair crowd had gathered on the bridge above and on both the pavements below to watch them dangle.

The traffic slowed as drivers looked up and small flyers were handed out to publicise the show Dolls.

But I think, to be truly effective, it needed a banner dangling from the bridge itself, above the two dangling trapeze people risking their lives for a line in The Scotsman.

Semi-ironically, the next event I went to was a 90-minute event publicising Death on the Fringe, an umbrella organisation which I blogged about last month.

It aims to stimulate discussion of death, end-of-life issues, bereavement and grief.

It was held in the Old Anatomy Lecture Theatre in the Medical School building of Edinburgh Universally.

All the talk was of death, terminal illnesses and mortality, but it seemed strangely refreshing amid the incestuous atmosphere of egos swirling around in the streets outside.

There have been sadly few cunning stunts so far this year.

Mark Dean Quinn - King of Fringe Flyerers

Mark Dean Quinn – King of Fringe Flyerers

But I bumped into Mark Dean Quinn yesterday. Last year, he got a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt nomination for his flyering techniques.

This year, he is mostly plugging his own show More Observation Without Comedy Is Not On Today about which he was strangely quiet, perhaps because it does not start until ten days time and is only on for two days. But he is also plugging Ben Target’s show Imagine There’s No Ben Target (It’s Easy If You Try) by handing out imaginary flyers and paper bags which say:

A BAG IN WHICH TO PLACE
YOUR IMAGINARY FLYER FOR
IMAGINE THERE’S NO BEN
TARGET (IT’S EASY IF YOU TRY)

3pm
THE HIVE
WEAR SENSIBLE SHOES

“How does Ben Target pronounce Ben Target?” I asked.

“Well,” explained Mark, “he pronounces Target as target and Tarjay as tarjay

“Each day,” Mark told me, Ben has given me a precise number of people he wants me to get into his show by flyering.”

“A different number each day?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” said Mark.

“What,” I asked, “happens if you miss the target for Ben Target?”

“Well, I don’t intend to fail on any particular day, because I’m sure there will be serious ramifications and I have seen what he carries in his suitcase.”

Janey Godley in suitcase

Janey Godley in a suitcase. There is no Ben Target on view

“What does he carry in his suitcase?” I asked.

“I have signed an actual written document to say I can’t say what’s in it, but it’s quite special.”

“Is the penalty different,” I asked if you are over or under on the audience numbers?”

“If you want to find out what the penalty is – and see what’s in the suitcase – come to the show at 3.00pm at The Hive daily, you’ll actually see the inside.”

Now THAT is effective promotion with a hint of cunning stunt.

As I walked back to my flat at around 2.00am last night/this morning, I turned down a side street. On the other side, walking in the opposite direction, back into the centre of Edinburgh, were a ballerina and a policeman hand-in-hand. They were not publicising anything. Just happy to be with each other.

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